At the end of the 9:30 Mass yesterday, Father John announced that the Knights of Columbus were sponsoring a blood drive at the church.
I have this funny habit. When I want to do something, but maybe feel unsure about it, I try to get millions of other people to do it, and then I can just join in unafraid. So I turned to Kevin, "You should give blood!" To my surprise, he said, "I'll do it."
From there, my campaign had a different look: "Hey, so-and-so, Kevin's giving blood. Wanna join him?" I asked eight people and was rejected by eight people. Bravely, for me, the needle wimp, I decided I would join him. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was visiting and took the kids home.
It was a long wait, but finally I went "behind the curtain" to answer questions about my sex, drug, and health practices. The funniest moment was when my interviewer asked if I'd ever been pregnant. I said yes. She asked how many times, and I answered eight. You should have seen her face. And she seriously thought I was joking (we'd already established a rapport, which is good when you're divulging whether or not you've had sex with someone with HIV - and we'd been joking a little bit). I told her I had four kids and four miscarriages and she was still shaking her head as we went on to the next question.
It was determined that I could donate "a double". I was tall enough, heavy enough, and had high enough iron to do it. After my finger prick revealed my super-star iron level, the interviewer goes, "GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL!" at the top of her lungs - announced my double donation and all the volunteer Knights on the other side of the curtain were clapping. (Just a note, the "double" means they can take double the blood because they pump your plasma right back into you and you can give more that way. It's also more readily usable, if I understood right, and just takes 45 minutes or so to give.)
I was actually having fun at this point. There was lots of attention given to the donors, and I like attention. Kevin and I were hanging out without the kids - nearly like a date! And my interviewer told me I had permission to eat a cheeseburger while I donated. I was hungry, having not eaten since breakfast about four or five hours before, and the Knights were sponsoring their monthly cook-out after Mass and all donors got a free ticket.
My plan was to have Kevin go fetch me a burger after he finished his donation. This went awry when time flew and he had to go get Joseph for a meeting back at the church at 1:00. So Ken, my new best friend, and one of the nicest Knights, brought me a scrumptious burger.
This blood donation thing seemed easy-breezy. I do hate needles and get faint at the sight of blood, but I had promised my interviewer I would not be dramatic and would keep communicating with the techs if I had any issues. Plus, compared to the thousand times I've had blood taken during my pregnancies and pregnancy losses, this was like a cruise ship compared to a row boat. The phlebotomists were friendly and jovial, the chair was like a La-Z-Boy recliner, and, for Pete's sake, I was saving a life or two! You can't beat that!!!
I was all hooked up and had enjoyed a small bag of pretzels and two water bottles by the time the cheeseburger arrived. It was delicious. I chewed it slowly while I focused on relaxing and NOT looking at the tube coming out of my arm.
I remembered labor with each of my pregnancies, and how successful it was to employ the mind-body connection. When I heard a tech say my blood had "slowed down" I visualized a river flowing. Even got a random old, old song by Joel Weldon going in my brain: "Still the River Flows". This river visual might have been the beginning of my demise.
It's frustrating, as the whole world knows, to do everything right and still have your body betray you. Despite all my prayer, visualization, happy singing, and relaxation - I started to shiver. Then get light-headed. It was annoying. But it was easily solved. Two blankets and a further reclined position plus two ice bags on my neck and I started to feel better. The guy told me that the saline pumping back into my body was twenty degrees cooler than my body temperature, so that explained the shivers. But I was starting to look more like a hospital patient then a calm, collected, breezy blood donor.
Ken had brought me such joy with the cheeseburger that he decided to bring a whole tray for other waiting donors. I remember when he walked in, my stomach turned. Then turned again. Then started somersaulting and cartwheeling and no amount of forced relaxation or trying to talk myself out of the nausea would work. I told my friendly phlebotomist that I was REALLY nauseous and before I knew it I was barfing endlessly into an orange biohazard bag.
Perhaps you're not fully appreciating this scene. I was wearing a pretty pink dress, left over from church. My friend Andrea had even complimented my hair. I was trying to save a LIFE! And it all came crashing down with a whole lot of wretching into a plastic bag held by a stranger.
Imagine also the orientation of the room. The donor recliners faced straight toward the waiting area. So I had an audience of like a dozen men and women. My buddy phlebotomist mostly blocked their view of my puking, but it had to be evident what was going on when other techs came running with napkins and chorusing, "Is she okay?"
I was okay. My pride was wounded, but the moment I started vomiting, the phlebotomist said, "Your blood came rushing out!" So maybe the visualization HAD worked! (A little TOO well.)
I was given extra time for recovery, and Ken gave me an apple juice. Another man insisted I couldn't drink it from a can, and brought me a cup. My pink bandage tape matched my dress. There was only the faintest hint of barf stench emanating from my cleavage where I hadn't thought to wipe. And as soon as I could walk, I went home where I could change clothes and recline on the couch.
Whether or not they wrote "Puker" on my donor record remains to be seen. I can donate again in September. If I avoid the cheeseburger, and they can put up with me, I'll give blood again. People go through way worse than this to save a life. Just call me the hurling heroine!